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The War of New Words - William F. Owen, Armed Forces Journal.
War isn't just transforming - it's ushering in a whole new language to describe conflict, and this language is used in a way that pays little attention to logic or military history. Thus the forces we used to call guerrillas are now "hybrid threats." Insurgencies are now "complex" and require "complex and adaptive" solutions. Jungles and cities are now "complex terrain." Put simply, the discussion about future conflict is being conducted using buzzwords and bumper stickers.
The evidence that the threats of the 21st century are going to be that much different from the threats of the 20th is lacking. Likewise, there is no evidence that a "new way of war" is evolving or that we somehow had a previously flawed understanding. In fact, the use of the new words strongly indicates that those using them do not wish to be encumbered by a generally useful and coherent set of terms that military history had previously used. As war and warfare are not changing in ways that demand new words, it is odd that people keep inventing them.
Hybrid threats have always existed, but previously we called them "irregulars" or "guerrillas"; both words, in this context, are more than 180 years old. The definition of hybrid threats as "a combination of traditional warfare mixed with terrorism and insurgency" accurately describes irregulars and guerrillas, both of which can be part of either an insurgency or a wider conflict. Yes, guerrillas have changed over time. So have regular forces. Armies of 1825 looked very different from those of 1925 or 1975, yet all were regular forces. Do we need a new word for regular or "conventional" forces? "Hermaphrodite" perhaps?
The most common attempt to redefine the activities of irregular forces and guerrillas has been the using the word "asymmetric," predicated on trying to describe a dissimilar employment of ways and means that was apparently new. Yet history does not support this thesis, nor does it usefully inform thinking about the future...
More at Armed Forces Journal.